Christmas at Kew (As reviewed by a 4-year-old)

This year we did ALL THE LIGHTS.  It just sort of happened.  We’d already planned a trip to Waddesdon Manor as part of our visit to the Buckinghamshire Railway Centre (Thomas the Tank Engine comes there twice a year), and Kew I booked in the summer when there was a sale on the cost of tickets.  When the weather looked good for Boxing Day we decided to book Blenheim, which was doing their first ever Christmas Lights event.

Kew, I thought, would be a fitting end to the festive season.  A proper, large-scale farewell to the sparkle before in true English fashion they pack everything away for 2-3 months so we can sit in the dark until Easter comes. (I don’t know why English people do this, but they do.  Toughens us up I think.)

I booked a full package and included parking so I wouldn’t have to hunt.  What we later found out is that parking is a bit mental, but once you get your head wrapped around the fact that driving in a small gap between two buildings constitutes a road everything pans out nicely.  (Plus, OMG I would not want to try to park in the surrounding neighbourhoods in all the madness!) The kiddo, now not a one but two-festive-light-trip veteran, came into this with a plan.  And, in his plan, this meant fairground rides.

All the fairground rides.

As Kew is slightly more than an hour from Oxford I booked the earliest start time so that even though we’d get home late we’d get home reasonably.  The trail was a little over a mile long and had food and drink stops along the way.  Our parking was in the middle of the trail.

Next to the fairground rides.

I realised if we hit the fairground rides before we went out we’d have to hit them again on the way back, thus emptying my wallet.  As such I had a devious plan of going on a Pokémon hunt (Kew is good for the Pokémon) and seeing the lights first, before riding the rides.  This last for all of 5 seconds, as my child throws his Pokémon balls out with reckless abandon.

Thus, I present my kiddo’s review of Christmas at Kew:

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Him, “Not the rides.”

Me, “Is this a Pokéstop?”

Checks phone, notices it is.

“Oh yeah!”

Occupied for 2 minutes.

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Him, “I am out of Pokéballs.  Is this the rides?”

Me, “No, look at the lights!”

Him, “I want to ride the rides.”

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Him, “Marshmallows are suitable.”

Me, “Holy cow, kid.  These are AMAZING.  This isn’t your run-of-the-mill…”

Him, “I’m done.  Can we ride the rides now?”

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Him, “This is neat.”

Me, “Yes, you see that glass house?  It’s huge!  Remember we once climbed to the second floor and…”

Him, “Are the rides near here?”

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Me, “This is a special installation for the year called The Hive.  Isn’t it pretty?”

Him, “Bees are dangerous, Mommy.”

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Him, “The garden is on fire.”

Me, “Yes, it’s representing five of the twelve days of Christmas.”

Him, “Is there a fire alarm in case the fire gets out?”

Me, “Well, no.  They have people looking after the fire.”

Him, “I want to look after the fire.”

Me, “Maybe when you are older.”

Him, (Pause.) “Can we ride the rides?”

After many, many conversations about how far we were from the rides, how many steps we would need to take before we got to the rides and if the phone would hold out long enough for him to catch another Christmas Pikachu we made it to the rides.  I was concerned he would want to ride absolutely everything 300 times over but, as a fairground veteran, he understood how many tokens there were and how many rides that equalled.

He even let me ride two rides with him.

We left happy, content, and with several Christmas Pikachu.  As for Christmas at Kew?  Go, definitely go.  It’s a full-scale production spread over a mile.  Tonnes of food and drink.  Toast a marshmallow, you won’t regret it. Piles of shopping (if you are into it).  And, in kiddo’s view – a very good fairground.

And, as I heard for a mile long walk, the rides are all that matter.

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Happy New Year (Cinnamon Rolls)

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I woke up this morning with all intents and purposes to commence making elaborate cinnamon rolls for the family in order to herald in 2017.   Instead I managed to sleep through not one but two alarms and, due to my lateness, commenced making cinnamon rolls with a 4-year-old running on stream of conscious next to me as I tried to figure out whether or not my dough was elastic or not.

“Mummy,” he asks in his adorable British-kid voice, “What would happen if there is a fire?” (He is currently convinced that at any given moment the house will burst into flames.)

“We’d get the pets and get out of the house.  Kneading should take 5 minutes, approximately.”  I go to set the timer and then get in trouble with said 4-year-old because he wanted to set the timer first.  Reset timer so kiddo can set timer.

“Mummy,” he looks up with angelic eyes, “I don’t like oranges.  They are yucky.”

“You drank the juice of an orange this morning,” commence kneading dough.

“I want to help you!”

Stop kneading dough and get kitchen steps out.  Timer goes off.  Have kiddo reset timer.  Kiddo pats dough two times and looks up at me, “Where are we going today?”

“Nowhere, everything is closed.”

“Are the Pokémon sleeping?”

“Yes.”

Take dough, start kneading dough.  Get in argument about how I’m kneading all the dough and we need to share because sharing is a rainbow choice.  Timer goes off.  Have kiddo reset timer. Give kid small piece of dough to pat lightly while kneading larger piece of dough.  Timer goes off.  Put dough with small, lightly padded piece of dough in well-oiled bowl.  Cover with plastic wrap.  Cover with towel.  Tell kiddo to set timer for one hour.

Painfully count to sixty with small child.

“I’m hungry.”

Make toast for child to carry into living room where he proceeds not to touch it.  Go back into kitchen to make topping and filling for cinnamon rolls.

From living room, “Where’s my water?”

Stop work.  Come out to living room to point to his Spiderman water bottle sitting right next to him.  Return to kitchen to make topping only to realise after spreading the topping out I used the wrong level of brown sugar.  Shrug it off after realising there’s nothing wrong with too much sugar.

Make tea and cereal for me.

“I want cereal.”

“We can share.  It’s a rainbow choice.”

Share cereal with child which involves him eating all the cereal and me eating his stale toast.  Timer goes off.  Through some miracle the small one declares, “I have to poo!” (Saying the word ‘poo’ is his second favourite thing to do besides calculating the moment when the house will be engulfed in an inferno.) Child trots upstairs.  I’m allowed to finish the cinnamon rolls in peace.

Prep cinnamon rolls for second rise.

Sit down and realise I should document this as kiddo may one day have a kiddo.  He may one day call in anguish about how he’s always arguing with his smaller self about everything.  Then I will point him to this blog and tell him history is repeating itself.

Happy New Year.

 

 

25 days as a tatted up woman.

Tattoos have always fascinated me.  When I was a lifeguard I saw a lot of tattoos and I learned something very important: If you get one be sure you take the time and energy to find an excellent artist and be ready to pay.  That is because one of the things I witnessed was how many truly awful, cheap, half faded or blurred tattoos are out there.

I watched piles of friends turn 18 and join the legion of the awful, cheap, half faded tattoo club.  It was a sort of right of passage, but for me it was a bigger commitment than marriage as it was on you for life irregardless of personal circumstances.

So I let that be, until the whole ‘flash tattoo’ craze hit.  I realised that temporary was my thing.  I could have an inspirational phrase one week, a little design the next, and then there was the bear hugging himself.  I love this one, but it always fell apart the fastest.

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Isn’t that not the cutest?

But then came the Inkbox.

I know, I’m sounding like I’m building up to something here, and I totally am because this takes ‘flash’ to a whole new level.

I stumbled across them through the vast metropolis that is Kickstarter.  I watched and thought, “OMG (those actual initials) this may be it.  This may be that wonderful line between temporary and permanent that I’ve been looking for.”  So I backed them and then completely forgot about it until it showed up.

And then for some reason I left it sitting on top of the kitchen table for awhile because I’m absent-minded like that.  (Wait, it gets better.)

And then… then one day I finally tried it out.

So, here’s the thing for people not wishing to go to websites and do such things as ‘research.’  They use a very special ink that dyes the top layer of skin for a few weeks and, like a stamp or marker, fades away.  But unlike a stamp or a marker it gets just deep enough to look real.  For awhile they’d had bottles of the dye and stencils available and what the Kickstarter did was back a faster application.

Which, because I am a genius, I messed up immediately.

I chose to the Project Semicolon tattoo.  First, because it looked like something I could easily apply.  Second, because I liked the cause it stands for and third, because it was a simple enough design I could likely get two uses out of it.

I carefully read the instructions on how to apply and did everything to the letter.  I think the hardest part is applying the constant pressure for 15 minutes.  Thing is the application used to take an hour, so this was a distinct improvement.

I took a photo of the skin standing out in a semicolon shape and posted it to my Instagram account and waited.

While I waited a message came through my account from one of the founders of Inkbox.  I was completely taken aback that I would be contacted let alone contacted by a FOUNDER.  I wrote enthusiastically about how I was waiting and that I would post photos.  He was very nice and politely asked for me to give any feedback so they could improve.  This short conversation got me very excited.  I put on my science hat and carefully watched as my wrist appeared to not develop anything at all.

Fun fact, in the period of time that I decided to try out my tattoo they had changed their application video instructions.  And so, the next day when nothing appeared I went back to their website to discover I had not followed the instructions to the letter – I had actually forgotten to take off the top green layer cover that activated the ink.

Sort of important.

So I ran outside and rescued the package from the garbage (I had also foolishly attempted to throw it away) and carefully followed the instructions to the new video.

This is what  happened over 12 hours:

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It was seriously cool.

I sent this picture over to Inkbox and they used it to show people what happens.  So I’m sort of famous.  Not as famous as my Tom Cruise post, but famous enough to feel special.  I helped out a small business!  In Canada!

Not only did I have what appeared to be a quality tat for 10 days, I managed to successfully apply it again…

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While not as perfect, it served as a reminder to continue on that brutal but worthwhile journey that is the marathon.

So, if you are considering an Inkbox, here’s some stuff I’ve learned:

  1. Read the instructions and watch the video a few hundred times.  In my case, a few thousand.
  2. If you want to get one that re-applies, choose something simple.
  3. Oh, and if you want to re-apply keep the towel separate from the tattoo as I think that my second application wasn’t as perfect as I kept it with the tattoo and the shape of the die-cut had warped slightly.
  4. If you regularly swim in pools (as I have a son who we are fairly sure is the deposed King of Atlantis and if he isn’t exposed to water he turns into a demon) it will fade faster.  I’ve joked with the team there that Inkbox water wings will be an accessory offer they need to look into.

In total I managed to be tatted up for about 25 days.

I’m looking forward to what they come up with next.  Hopefully some colour?  I’m sure that will be super easy to do! (Writes the person with zero experience in development as well as chemistry.)

Any ways, thank you Inkbox.  My need for self expression coupled with my lack of commitment has been met.

 

 

 

Post-Marathon Blues

I can’t believe I’m writing this but… I am missing all the preparation for the marathon.

I’m missing the calculated mileage, the packing, the visualisation, the excitement.  I’m finding myself upset that it’s all over.  And even though I know that technically it isn’t, and that I should be enjoying my recovery period and thinking about what smaller races I would like to participate in, I am in a semi-mourning state.

I ran a really great race.  As I work in software I had colleagues walking up and telling me that I was bang on with my slow-and-steady mileage.  (Nothing like stats to excite a bunch of super geeks like us.) I couldn’t agree more.  Marathons are tough and you have to strategise in order to keep your energy consistent.  I achieved that.  I was sore when it ended but outside of a stomach that has been a bit everywhere this week (including into the leftover Easter candy) and a bit of IT band twinge, I’m fine.

But mentally, I’m not.

Here’s the thing, I know this is part and parcel of distance races.  I know that there are endorphin crashes and that you have to work through the recovery.  In fact, the reason I’m writing this is just in case there are others out there wondering why they are sad about it all ending.  Because this is one of the things that might happen and it’s normal.  You aren’t alone, and yes, it can even happen to people who have been running for years.

Enough with the sad emojis that are littering this post.  The way you recover is through kindness to yourself (and a bit of light exercise).  So…

I did things that made me smile this morning:

Oh, and for England, today’s weather looks like it may stay consistent with cold but sunny.  If anyone has spent time in England during Bank Holiday weekends it is usually rainy and miserable so I’m taking a moment to give a shout out to Mother Nature for keeping it beautiful.

I know these blues will pass and soon I’ll be writing again about all manner of silly things on this blog.  But I thought I would write a little about the things that people may not expect from running, that sometimes you can be sad.  And that’s okay.

Let me take a few seconds…

First, and most importantly, I made it around the course.  Here’s a photo of me in quasi-delirious state (with wild hair pointing out of hat to accentuate the point):

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I even managed, through my mystery angel fabulous donors, to once again break my fundraising goal.

Honestly, I am sitting here a bit stunned that I actually did it.  I’ve completed three marathons.  Me, the girl who once finished a 12 mile race, crawled to her car, crawled into her home and thought, “I’m never going to finish the half marathon.”  Me, the girl who cried the entire last mile of her first half marathon.  I’m now a three-time marathoner.

Some important race things things – I did not have an emotional hiccup on the course!  Those who have read my tales know that it is pretty standard that at some point I cry, but I didn’t.  I worked very hard on my mental state this race.  I also worked on rhythmic breathing, which I literally discovered the night before and so want to work more on because when I got it going I felt like I could go and go!  I spent so much time focused on the breath I frankly didn’t have a moment to think of anything else… so it was like I was marathoning in active meditation mode.   My knee started acting up at mile 23, which meant the last 5k was walking, but I decided to spend it singing so in the end I was probably quite an entertaining thing to witness.

Some important other things – The marathon expo was way improved over 2013 – it felt like a celebration of running and fundraising, which was so much fun.  I scored an extra £5 donation for dancing around like a silly person, but I will not speak of my bowling skills.  Also, the support – wow.  I don’t remember so many water stations, gel stations, paramedics there to assist if you needed them (I didn’t, whew!).  It felt like London showed up in full force to make sure everyone had the best race possible.

And some super important things:

To my friends and family (especially the hubby and the kiddo) – thank you for putting up with me.  I was either out running, talking about running, or doing some form of other training to help my running.

To the National Autistic Society, wow, what can I say?  I felt like I had a whole extended family this time around the course!

And finally, I wish to officially announce I have retired from London… but not marathoning.  I know that people have gone years upon years wanting to run those 26.2 miles and as I have been blessed to experience this twice it is time for me to step aside and let someone else slot in.  As it appears I like to do this every 3 years shall we say Disney 2019?

I think by then I’ll just about have recovered.

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A Pre-London Pep Talk

Right.  What you are about to experience is going to suck.

But you’re also going to love it.

How do I know?  Because this is my third marathon.

Third.  THREE.  I’ve done this, on Sunday, THREE TIMES.

Willingly.

And I can tell you, you are going to ride one heck of a roller coaster.  You will have moments of joy, moments of despair, and moments of crazy… and those moments could all happen all at the same time.

You may at some point be passed by a person dressed as a beer, or pulling a pile of bricks, or dressed as a beer pulling a pile of bricks.

Embrace that because that’s the London Marathon.

Embrace that what you are about to do is completely insane.  100% mental.  But comfort yourself in that there will be 35,000 completely insane people doing it with you at the same time.  You will be cheered on by hundreds of thousands of people in London and abroad.  You’ll all be headed towards the same goal together – to finish the London Marathon which is one of the top marathons in the world.

And when you finish (which you will) you can tell everyone you are a marathoner.  No one can take that away from you.  Not even the person dressed as a beer.

So count your gels, get all weird about what socks you are going to wear, and get ready to have some sort of crying fit at mile 22 – cause it’s on people.

It’s on.

Support my insanity by clicking this link.

Ran 12 miles. No John Barrowman.

After looking at the time between my 20 miles and the marathon I realised that it would be pretty close to silly to attempt 22 and then allow less than 10 days to be in a good place to run the 26.2.

So, I decided on 12.

It was a lovely run.  I ran by the canals.  They are lovely in the Spring.  Here’s a photo:

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I managed to accidentally turn off my GPS at mile 4, so I have no idea how long it took me, what my splits were, etc.  However, I know it was 12 miles because I’ve actually memorised that much road/trail in the city.  This coincides with the fact that once you live in Oxford long enough you understand that driving in the city is incredibly foolish and running marathons make perfect sense.  In some cases you can run a marathon and your friend or family member can transverse 1.2 miles of Botley Road in the exact same time.

This is a fact.  Though maybe it’s really 1 mile.  So… plus or minus .2 miles for the sake of ‘wiggle room’ on this fact.

Also, Oxfordians are turned eccentric not because of the university.  Instead it is done through a process called ‘being stuck on Botley Road for 6 hours for no apparent reason.’

Also fact.

So, any way, because I changed my mileage from 22 to 12 miles John Barrowman and I didn’t meet up. I’m sure that’s the reason why.  Not that he’s based in California at the moment or anything.  Or that the whole idea of him coming to Oxford to meet someone he doesn’t know is a bit… weird.  But we didn’t meet up this time.

Maybe next time,  John.  I’m sure he’s crushed.  Likely oblivious, but I’m going with crushed.

14 days until London.